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Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries and What to Expect

treating traumatic brain injuries and what to expect

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, TBI, recovery can be a process. Even mild concussions can cause lingering effects for several months. It is important that anyone who has a head injury be examined by a doctor. They can then plan your treatment and help your brain heal.

Measuring the Severity of the Injury

The first step, once it has been determined that you have in fact suffered from a traumatic brain injury, is to assess the damage and the type of injury. This is important information because it can help the doctor understand what was injured, and you can learn what to expect in terms of symptoms and potential complications.

To assess the damage, you can expect to have a CT (computerized tomography) scan or an MRI. MRIs are usually reserved for severe brain damage. A CT scan is an X-ray that can show the doctor where there may be bruises, swelling and blood clots. As your treatment progresses, you might expect to have a few of these so doctors can measure improvements.

Recovery Can Take Time

Even mild concussions can take time to heal. Common symptoms include insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and irritability. Many people deal with anxiety and depression as well as dizziness, blurry vision, and headaches. You may have memory issues and trouble thinking or processing information. These symptoms can come and go and can last for up to six months or longer.

In most mild or moderate concussions, the symptoms fade over time and recovery takes less than six months. For a small percentage, recovery can take longer. It’s very important to take it easy and to avoid anything that makes your symptoms worse.

The Biggest Challenge

To date, there’s no real treatment for TBI that works for everyone. There’s no medication to take and no proven protocol to follow. Doctors generally let the patient know what they’re dealing with and what to expect. From that point, it will be up to you to take it easy, go into the doctor’s office for follow-ups and to report any changes or complications.

Transitioning into a normal work or school schedule can take time and is often the most difficult part of traumatic brain injury. Some days you’ll feel healthy and able to function normally, and other days you may feel miserable both physically and emotionally.

Head injuries are still a bit of a mystery to the medical community. What we do know is that many head injuries are preventable. Wear a helmet, wear your seat belt, and take precautions to protect your brain. It’s the only one you have.

Cynthia Stein, PT, MEd.
Cynthia Stein, PT, MEd.

A physical therapist and educator, Cynthia graduated with a BS in physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh and a masters in exercise physiology from Temple University. She served as a staff physical therapist at the Annapolis Naval Hospital and chief physical therapist at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.

She owned and operated Squirrel Hill Physical Therapy in Pittsburgh PA for 30 years. She is extensively trained in osteopathic techniques, Myofascial Release, Lymphatic Drainage, Nasal Release Technique, and PEMF. She sees patients privately and teaches continuing education for health care practitioners around the world. Visit for more information.

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